We break for biscotti

Biscotti are one of the simplest, most versatile cookies you can possibly bake. Butter, sugar, eggs, flour, and baking powder come together in a simple dough that can be flavored to taste (vanilla, almond, anise, orange, maple… pineapple! banana!). Or enhanced with impunity (aside from any possible fallout related to your waistline): chocolate chips, pecans, cinnamon bits, chopped ginger, diced apricots… In short, biscotti are Everyman’s Cookie.

So why doesn’t Everyman bake them?

I’m always surprised at the number of my baking friends who’ve NEVER baked biscotti. The ingredients are basic; the techniques are simple. (Can you pat out a meatloaf? Slice a loaf of bread? You have the necessary skills to make biscotti.) Just because something LOOKS fancy or unusual doesn’t mean it’s difficult. Witness my favorite all-time pastry, Almond Puff Loaf.

Or maybe it’s that people are used to those rock-hard coffee-shop biscotti, the traditional dense, Italian-style cookies meant to be softened in a cup of cappuccino before submitting to your nibble. I agree, those can be hard to deal with. But American-style biscotti—ah, a different creature entirely. Light and crunchy rather than dense and hard, these biscotti are made for eating out of hand (sans the need for a coffee bath). Or for crumbling and layering with pudding or mousse and fruit to make a tasty parfait, as our King Arthur Flour test kitchen director, Sue Gray, often does.

So, next time cookies are in the offing, don’t forget biscotti. They’re easier than they look. More versatile than chocolate chippers (in fact, they can easily become chocolate chip biscotti). Most kids are afraid to try them (too weird…) Which means—for once, the adults don’t have to stick their hand in the cookie jar and find it empty.

Lemon-Almond Biscotti make a nice, simple dessert, served with fresh berries or a perfectly ripe peach. To make the biscotti flavor of YOUR choice, simply leave out the lemon and almond, flavor with your favorite extract, and add your own touches: up to 2 cups nuts, and or chips, and/or dried fruit. Hazelnut cappuccino chip biscotti, anyone?
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Start with 1 fresh lemon. First, grate its rind, taking only the yellow part, not the white; the white pith is bitter. Once you’ve taken off the rind, squeeze out 2 tablespoons of juice (or 3 tablespoons, for more lemon-y biscotti).

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You’ll have about 1 tablespoon grated rind, along with the juice.

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Put the lemon rind in a bowl along with the butter, sugar, salt, baking powder, and almond extract.

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Beat till well combined.

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Add the eggs and lemon juice…

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…and beat again. You’ll have a thin, somewhat curdled-looking mixture.

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But once you add the flour, it smooths out nicely. Pat the dough into a 13” x 3” log on a parchment-lined or greased baking sheet.

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Use a bowl scraper dipped in water to smooth the sides and top of the log.

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Bake the dough for 25 minutes. Let it cool for 10 to 25 minutes, then spritz it with water; this will make it easier to slice, which is the next step.

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Slice the log crosswise into 1/2” pieces. Using a serrated knife and a light touch will make the task go smoothly.

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Here’s what one biscotto (the singular of biscotti—who knew?!) looks like. It’ll be soft and somewhat moist.

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Line all the biscotto slices up on the same baking sheet, setting them on edge. This saves space, and helps them bake more quickly and evenly.

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After about 30 minutes in the oven, biscotti will be lightly browned around the edges, and will no longer feel moist on the surface.

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You can let them cool on the pan, just the way they are.

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Finished biscotti. Bring on the berries! Or not; they’re lovely as is.

Find our recipe for Lemon-Almond Biscotti.

Bake vs. Buy:

BUY Starbucks biscotti: 80¢/ounce

BUY Stella Doro Anisette Toast Cookies: 44¢/ounce

BAKE Homemade Lemon-Almond Biscotti (ingredients cost): 10¢/ounce

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Mary

    I grew up in San francisco and teethed on Stella D’oro Anisette toasts. How would you go about recreating those? Anise extract?
    Thanks PJ, I love the blog.

    Reply
  2. Beth

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, PJ. After seeing/reading these detailed instructions I will finally have the nerve to try to make biscotti. I love this blog.

    Reply
  3. Jan

    I love biscotti. This lemon version looks great. Even my 13yo nephew makes them! I gave him the KAF biscotti kit last Christmas along with all the recipes I could find on the Baking Circle.

    All God’s children….even the parrots…..love biscotti. My sister’s company, Reptigreens.com, makes all organic Birdscotti for parrots. The only trouble is keeping the kids, including the aforementioned nephew, from eating them!

    Reply
  4. Trisha

    How timely! My copy of King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion just arrived yesterday, and I was excited to see all the biscotti recipes in it. What a great book, P.J.! I can’t wait to start baking from it.

    Reply
  5. Susan in Las Vegas

    Hobby horse time (soap box, whatever). ***EVERYONE*** says “grate its rind, taking only the yellow part, not the white; the white pith is bitter.” Have you ever bothered to TASTE the pith? It’s not bitter. It’s very mild compared to the oily colored skin. You don’t include it in recipes because it doesn’t add anything to the flavour, and the texture probably wouldn’t be pleasant in baked goods. The coloured skin has the INTENSE CONCENTRATED flavour. The pith is just bland. Please stop dissing the poor pith. I often peel it off my fruit and eat it separately because it’s such a nice treat! (Climbing down off the hobby horse which I had apparently propped up on top of a soap box, and stepping away from the megaphone.)

    Reply
  6. PJ Hamel , post author

    Leslie, absolutely the first bake could be done in a biscotti pan; saves you the steps of shaping and smoothing, since the pan pretty much does it for you.

    Susan – WOW – you’re right. About everything. I was just mouthing the same old, same old, without thinking… I have to say I don’t enjoy the pith, it’s an unpleasant (to me) texture and cardboardy taste, but it’s not bitter. (I just went and tasted some lemon pith to make sure!) So I’m glad you found the soapbox, hobby horse, AND megaphone to set me straight. I promise – no more dissing pith!!

    Reply
  7. Claire

    The pith IS bitter. I learned the hard way by cooking with the whole rind, rather than just the zest. Perhaps heat makes the pith bitter, and it is not bitter when it is raw. Or perhaps some varieties of citrus have bitter pith. But I learned my lesson when the meal (long since forgotten) was inediblely bitter due to the pith. Thanks for yielding the sopbox to an opposing point-of-view!

    Reply
  8. Nancy

    I made my first biscotti last week (with a KA receipe) and they were very well received. Thanks for your instructions here about shaping and the water mist prior to cutting. My load wasn’t very even and the sides certainly weren’t square. I didn’t have much trouble cutting the biscotti but I’m sure it would be easier with a softer crust. I don’t know why I waited so long to try them.

    Reply
  9. dora macdonald

    I am so grateful for the detailed illustration. Makes a complete difference in giving me the confidence to try these biscotti.

    Reply
  10. Diana Argersinger

    Thanks for the recipe & inspiration — it arrived just in time for my knitting group meeting & it’s my turn to provide the goodies. We’re always looking for non-sticky sweets to nibble on when we take a short break from knitting! You make it very easy.

    Reply
  11. ARTHUR MILLER

    i use a mesh pizza crisper for the second baking. saves turning them over.

    i use a large chopping knife to slice them. i “rock” the knife gently back and forth. fewer broken slices than with a serated blade.

    a little lemon oil adds a lot of lemon flavor.

    Reply
  12. Lynda Zycherman

    Does anyone have an excellent recipe for biscotti without butter or fat? How about with a minimal amount of fat. perhaps only 2 or 3 tablespoons?

    Reply
  13. Linda

    The last post is looking for the delicious Italian style biscotti in the KAF Cookie Companion. No Butter. Coffee shop biscotti are never as good as the KAF Italian biscotti. I made a batch of anise-flavored with pine nuts for a friend from South Philly and he approved. His comment was if you hit the biscotti on the table, the table should break before the cookie does. My son at college loves them; they work with his coffee and don’t get stale. Make them with dried cranberries and pistachios and you get beautiful colors and great taste. But the best combination I have come up with is dried pineapple and pecans. Cut up the pineapple with shears so that every bite has a little bit of sweet chewy goodness. They’re heavenly!

    Reply
  14. PJ Hamel , post author

    Whoa,Linda = pineapple and pecan sounds SO good… now I’ll have to run to the store tomorrow for some dried pineapple. Thanks for reminding about the Italian biscotti in the cookbook, too – I always make the softer American ones, so I tend to forget it. But it does indeed make a classic lower-fat biscotti.

    Reply
  15. Bonnie

    I always make the “Nana Rosa’s Biscotti” from the KAF 200th Anniversary Cookbook – wonderful soft, flavorful biscotti – my family loves them, & we get raves from those with whom we share. I vary the flavor of extract I use with that – orange & almond are my 2 favorites, though I make others too. Sometimes I bake “assortments” for my husband’s business clients; when I do that I tint the dough just lightly with a few drops of food coloring so people have a clue which kind of cookie they’re choosing.

    The Nana Rosa’s recipe calls for an egg wash rather than a water spritz, though. And while I use my wet hands to shape the log rather than a dough scraper (and I have NEVER gotten my pre-baked log so beautifully neat as yours), it looks much the same as your after-baking photo. I think the dough must spread similarly during baking.

    By the way, while I am a cookbook addict (no 12-step programs for me, thanks), the aforementioned 200th-anniversary cookbook is my hands-down most-used cookbook. (And those hands – they’re generally down elbow-deep in dough . . . ) My husband declares himself a happy man!

    Reply
  16. Kat DeFonce

    I must agree with Bonnie, my most used and most beloved cookbook is the KAF 200th anniversary cookbook! It amazes me how so many people are afraid to try making biscotti! Every Christmas I bake trays of various quick breads, cookies, yeast breads, etc. (add a bottle of wine, varied fruits and nuts). This year I also added 2 different kinds of the Italian biscotti. (I’m a bit of a purist, I’m afraid.) This cookie is very easy to make (esp. with a stand mixer), can easily be mass produced and, they made a very big hit!!! I can’t wait to make your lemon version now and add a bit of almonds. Thanks, PJ for the ideas!

    Reply
  17. Julia

    Haven’t made biscotti in years so had to try these.
    I don’t have a biscotti pan so divvied up the dough
    into 2 loaf pans to bake two flat loaves. Used my
    double-handled cheese knife to guillotine, er, slice
    them, instead of a serrated knife. (Any big heavy
    chef’s knife would work as well.)

    They weren’t quite as lemon-y as we like so will
    try adding a bit of lemon extract or KAF’s lemon
    powder next time.

    But the texture is great–not a jawbreaker like
    some biscotti.

    Reply
  18. tommix

    When the biscotti come out of the oven after the first bake, what should the texture be? Still somewhat soft? Firm enough to slice but not hard?

    Reply
  19. PJ Hamel

    Tom, the “log” will feel set, but you can still press your finger onto it and make an indentation; it shouldn’t be rock-hard. When you slice the biscotti, the interior should be, again, firm-but-soft: not gooey, not wet, fully cooked through, but somewhat soft. I’d compare it to stale poundcake, perhaps? After its second bake (after being sliced), it should feel pretty hard; and realize it’ll continue to harden as it cools. So don’t let it get brown all over, just a bit around the edges. If you cut the biscotti 1/2″ thick rather than 3/4″ or thicker, it’s easier to dry it out entirely without browning the surface.

    Reply
  20. PJ Hamel , post author

    Roger, go for it – the more almond flour you substitute the crumblier they’ll be, so take it easy at first; try substituting for 1/4 of the flour, then go up from there if it works well. GREAT IDEA!

    Reply
  21. Nada Arnold

    Please, local baker sells biscotti at our weekly farmer’s market made with canola oil only.
    Kindly indicate how to alter other ingredients so I may use oil.
    Taste is superb.
    Had her chocolate and the lemon almond varieties and butter not missed.
    Also would like to use ground oatmeal, and wheat flour for part of the dry ingredients. Many thanks. NSA

    Reply
  22. Shirley Garies

    5/10

    Have just made my first batch of biscotti, using the KA lemon/almond recipe. Key word here is first, and i am well past senior age! It was easier than I thought. My biscotti is not quite high enough, I think, I may have had the log a little wide. I am now brave enough to try the KA cookbook recipes. We love biscotti, don’t buy it too often-it is expensive, as you pointed out, less to make. Thanks
    Shirley G.

    Reply
  23. s.tai

    Thank you for a biscotti recipe that doesn’t call for a ton of butter! I made macadamia nut + dried cranberry biscotti last night and they are delicious. I just had to be careful when slicing the loaf because it crumbled/cracked easily.

    Reply
  24. Jeanette

    Arthur Miller’s idea using a pizza crisper for the second baking is a good one. Years ago I bought 2 non-stick cookie sheets with edges and 2 flat cooling racks that fit just inside each one. I use the cookie sheets to bake a double recipe (4 cups of flour) of biscotti, remove the logs to another rack to cool and cut the logs. Put the racks inside the pans, lay the cut biscottis on the racks & put back in the oven for the final baking. I find that 15 minutes is usually enough. No more trying to balance biscotti on end. No more turning over to dry. Quick and easy. I just bought 2 biscotti pans from KA and this will make them even quicker & easier. How about selling some of these “bake & dry” sets? Mine are Wilton, bought at a discount store so long ago I can’t even remember where.

    Reply
  25. Stella Cook

    Hi,
    I LOVE your blog and I’m very grateful that I have learned a lot! Will you ever make croissants? I have made your recipe and love it. I’m ecstatic when they bake up light and crispy, but they never are as hugh as when I bake the Williams-Sonoma frozen croissants. I measure my success or failure by them! I purchased the Baker’s Milk from your website some time ago and wonder if that will make the difference. I have not had the time yet to experiment with it. I deeply appreciate any help you can give me!

    Reply
  26. PeggyJ

    I just made my first biscotti and after the first baking it is very flat. Help

    Hi Peggy,

    Biscotti should only be about an inch high. If it did not rise and puff at all, you may want to test your leavener, to be sure it is still active.

    MaryJane @ The Baker’s Hotline

    Also, Peggy, maybe the dough was too wet, which would make it spread. Did you use large eggs, not extra-large? Did you use King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour? a lower-protein flour (e.g., Gold Medal) would make the biscotti spread more… – PJH

    Reply
  27. Phyllis Sharai

    I love baking biscotti, I have a pan but sometime I just form it on my own. I cut my biscotti with an electric knife it does a good job and they are even, just thought I would pass that tip. Made the lemon and wow they are so good.

    Reply

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